Drive and Dish was launched one week before the start of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. In 2008, we began publishing our handwritten NCAA Tournament brackets. The night before our first brackets appeared, Mark Buckets and yours truly spent the wee hours deliberating over our picks in a then-24 hour Kinko's in the western suburbs of Chicago. Mr. Buckets abruptly retired from sports blogging during Duke's upset loss to West Virginia in the second round of that year's Tournament. He came out of retirement to pen a post or two later in the week, but left blogging for good after the 2008 Final Four.
Drive and Dish Senior Editor Trashtalk Superstar took sole responsibility for handwriting and publishing the annual Drive and Dish NCAA Tournament bracket in 2009. Like a monk who spent years copying the Bible by hand during the Dark Ages, Mr. Trashtalk devoted himself to handwriting and publishing the Drive and Dish brackets for the remaining years.
The 2010 Drive and Dish NCAA bracket was particularly noteworthy. Drive and Dish eschewed the conventional wisdom (we were among the few who didn't pick Kansas that year) and correctly predicted that Duke would earn head coach Mike Krzyzewski his fourth NCAA Championship. To be sure, we never envisioned that the Blue Devils would meet unheralded Butler in the Championship game, but we deserved some credit for what was (at the time) a bold pick. Believe it or not, virtually nobody picked Duke to win it all that year.
Our 2010 Duke pick was reminiscent of when we picked Florida to win its second consecutive NCAA Championship in 2007, even though the defending champs' lackluster regular season performance had caused most of the "experts" to be Gator skeptics (we didn't publish our brackets that year, so readers will have to work their way through bullet points to find the Florida Championship prediction).
Drive and Dish picked Duke to win it all again in 2011, even though the Blue Devils lost a few key starters from the 2010 Championship team to graduation. We ended up being wrong: Duke fell short and Connecticut came out of nowhere to win head coach Jim Calhoun his third NCAA Championship.
This year, we ended up with North Carolina beating Duke in an NCAA Championship game for the ages. To be clear, we don't actually think the game will be that good. North Carolina should waltz to the Championship . But if our prediction comes to pass, the game will be deemed a "game for the ages" simply due to the novelty of having the two biggest conference rivals in college basketball face each other for the third time this season while playing for the championship.
Of course, our 2012 bracket should come with the following disclaimer: yours truly hasn't had a TV for two years. So like last year's brackets, the Drive and Dish 2012 brackets have been completed despite the fact that Drive and Dish writers' exposure to college basketball in the 2011-2012 season has been limited to internet viewing of select games and to catching a few minutes of games here and there while out and about (come to think of it, maybe that's why we didn't see Connecticut coming last year).
Our 2012 bracket:
Normally, we list several things to watch for below our brackets. But this year, since we haven't seen many games, there really isn't much that we can say with much authority. But we have seen St. Bonaventure play and we think they could surprise people. Of course, they play Florida State in the first round, and the Seminoles have beaten Duke and North Carolina. A few more things:
* Everybody seems to have Kentucky winning it all, but we're skeptical (as we always are of John Calipari's teams). Kentucky has the talent, but do they have the mental toughness and experience that teams with upperclassmen typically have? Toughness and experience are two essential ingredients that National Championship teams must have.
* We picked Virginia Commonwealth to beat Wichita State (primarily because we're so sick of witnessing Illinois fans salivate over VCU coach Shaka Smart that we figure his team will go on a tear that forces us to put up with two weeks more of Illini fans' slobbering), but Wichita State is good enough to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, and maybe beyond.
We've seen Wichita St. a couple times this year and have been pretty impressed. Gregg Marshall is an outstanding coach. He turned tiny Winthrop into a perennial NCAA Tournament participant before bolting for Wichita, and he's got the Shockers' on the national map. Marshall will be pursued by several BCS conference schools that have coaching openings.
* We picked New Mexico State to surprise Indiana. Indiana should win the game, but NMSU is the type of off-the-radar team that can give the big boys all kinds of trouble in the first round Tournament games.
* Nobody has impressed us in 2012 more than Notre Dame. Most of the games we managed to watch online were Fighting Irish games. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the young Irish, but when senior Tim Abromaitis was lost for the season after tearing his ACL, it looked like the season could turn out to be a disaster. But Mike Brey's team knocked off ranked Big East team after ranked Big East team and wound up back in the Big Dance ™.Brey won national coach of the year in 2011. He probably deserves it even more this year.
That said, we have Xavier beating Notre Dame in the first round. We think Xavier's toughness could give the Irish trouble.
* Ohio University is a dark horse team that a lot of people like to make some noise. Head coach John Groce is a rising star in the game. If the Bobcats make a run in the Tournament, he'll have plenty of opportunities to go to bigger name schools (although he probably won't find a nicer campus than the one where he works now -- Ohio University's campus is gorgeous).
We don't think Ohio will beat Michigan though. The Wolverines aren't very big, but they're tough and they can score. We do, however, expect Ohio to give Michigan a run for their lives. But in the end, coach John Beilein's Wolverines should pull it out and advance to play another day.